Senior Will Comstock flew an airplane for the first time when he was nine.
“Me and my dad both kind of looked it up, and really as long as you can reach the pedals you can go,” he said. “So it was like, here, can we fit you into the airplane, or are you big enough to fly it, and I started training when I was about nine.”
Senior Phillip Holden Mahler, who also flies, said that, while uncommon, some pilots begin learning how to fly when they are 14, 15 or 16. He said that his involvement was preceded by a long-held interest in flying and airplanes when he was younger.
“I first got the idea to start flying because I’ve always been interested in airplanes, constantly traveling when I was younger and that really sparked it,” Holden Mahler said. “To actually start flying, I really wanted to get my private pilot’s license and fly around recreationally. So I was like, why not?”
Sophomore Michael Zimmerman, who is also learning how to fly, said his grandfather served as an inspiration.
“I’ve always been interested in airplanes,” he said. “My grandfather was an aeronautical engineer, so I also was influenced by him. I never thought I would actually do it this early, but I got the ability to do it as a gift last summer.”
To get his license, Holden Mahler said that he had to pass written, oral and flight tests, but that it was well worth it.
“My favorite memory is definitely getting my license,” he said. “It was a challenging experience, but it was also very rewarding, because it’s been something I wanted since I was a little kid, and now I get to do it once, or two times a week. It’s pretty fun.”
Zimmerman said that he has also been working up to earning his license, and that knowing Holden Mahler, who also happens to be his senior mentor, has helped him become a better pilot.
“Phil has always been really helpful and he helped me really start my flying,” Zimmerman said. “He helped me make a lot of choices about it like what flight school to go to and just answering any questions I might have when my instructor can’t get back to me.”
Despite the help, all three said that they have faced a number of challenges in learning how to fly, including financing it and finding time to practice.
Comstock said that he has been finding it difficult to get the flying hours needed for his license.
“I need more hours to get my license and I plan to continue on it, but I’m busy with school and everything,” he said. “I do it up in New Hampshire with my dad and that’s not very often, so that’s how it is right now.”
Holden Mahler said that his biggest problem has been paying for flying, and that he has a job to fund it.
“Financing it has definitely been a big challenge,” he said. “It’s obviously very expensive, so how are you going to pay for it? I’ve been working since the summer before 9th grade at Otto Pizza, so I work and earn some money there. Then, during the school year, I work twice a week. My parents help me out a little bit.”
However, Holden Mahler, Comstock and Zimmerman said that the experience, which resulted from overcoming those challenges, has been more than worthwhile.
Zimmerman said that his first flight remains his favorite flying experience so far.
“My favorite memory as of now I would say is my first flight,” he said. “I’ve always loved flying in planes, and it felt like I was living the dream.”